Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) comes forward with a petition made to the state government to include Thane Creek and Hatnur Dam to the list of Ramsar sites in India.
Thane Creek, a thriving wetland ecosystem attracts over 205 species of avian fauna to make it their wintering ground every year.
On 1 February, 2017 Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) filed a petition to the state government of Maharashtra, requesting Thane Creek of Mumbai and Hatnur Dam of Jalgaon to be given conservation status of a Ramsar site under the Ramsar Convention (also known, as the Convention on Wetlands). The much-needed move made by BNHS comes as a welcome change on a day, when the world celebrates World Wetlands Day on 2nd February, 2017.
Wetland is any landscape area that is continually fed or flooded by water like swamps, peat bogs, marshes, fens. A wetland area of international importance from the perspective of conservation, is listed under the Ramsar convention and is called a Ramsar site.
Located in-between areas with booming urbanisation, namely Airoli and Vashi, Thane creek is struggling to cope up with the increasing human pressures.
Last year, in the month of August, state government declared the northern region of the creek a flamingo sanctuary, recognising the wetland area as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). The reason being, it serves as a vital breeding ground for these near threatened migratory species during winters. As per a report published by Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN) in 2015, ‘over 205 species of birds have been reported from this area. Thane Creek is a very important wintering ground for waterbirds. It supports over 1,00,000 birds during winter.’ Great Spotted eagle (Clanga clanga), Lesser flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor), Greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus), Easter Golden plover (Pluvialis fulva), Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria), Asian openbill (Anastomus oscitans), Pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) and smaller waders are few of those many species that grace the landscape with their presence every winter season.
Reckless methods of domestic waste disposal by humans, has increased the algal growth on the banks, covered with a thin layer of oil slick from grease and oil.
The area’s proximity to two ports, leads to incessant dumping of plastic waste, untreated effluents and oil directly into the waters, making it toxic. Also, the creek lies between two highly urbanised sections of the city, Airoli and Navi Mumbai (Vashi) which has eventually led to humans treating waterbanks as waste disposal and landfill grounds. The depreciation in the water conditions is a direct impact on the life quality of the marine ecosystem and the avian fauna dependent on it.
Turning waterbanks into local dumping grounds, is as deadly to migrating bird species and marine ecosystem, as it is too humans. Soon enough, these lands turn into breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
In such dire circumstances, recognising the area as a Ramsar site should be the first step towards a holistic conservation of flora and fauna, alike.
Photos by Dr. Anish Andheria and Nishant Andrews